The Evolution of Firing Mechanisms

Ep. 4 – Educational Video Series

The Evolution of Firing Mechanisms

What makes a firearm discharge? The action. Chris, Mission94’s Chief Rang Safety Officer, talks about The Evolution of Firing Mechanisms. See what the action is, how it works and how advancements to the action enabled the continued improvement of firearm safety, accuracy and reliability.

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EPISODE 4 – The Evolution of Firing Mechanisms

Welcome back to our Educational Video Series. In this episode, we’re going to look at the evolution of firing systems. 

What enables you to shoot a firearm? The action is the portion of your firearm that dictates how the firearm functions, including the steps the shooter must perform to fire another round.  

Single shot firearms, like the Flintlock and Percussion lock muskets, can hold just one round ready to fire. These firearms were muzzleloaders, meaning they were loaded from the forward open end of the firearm’s barrel. 

While single shot firearms represent humanity’s earliest category of firearms, the technology of firing systems has advanced. Enter, the repeating firearm. 

These firearms can repeat the same action for a set number of times before needing to be reloaded. Repeating firearms can be muzzleloading, such as the Colt 1860 Army Revolver, or breechloading. Breechloading firearms introduce the projectile and propellant from the rear of the barrel instead of the muzzle.  

The transition from muzzleloading to breechloading a firearm’s powder and projectile led to one of the most important inventions in firearm history: the metallic cartridge. When first introduced, metallic cartridges took on many forms and features. The invention of a projectile that was self-contained with its propellant and ignition source allowed new repeating firearm mechanisms to be invented.  

These new repeating firearms further improved the reliability and speed at which these firearms could fire. The introduction of metallic cartridges also allowed ammunition to be stored in magazines, cylinders, or belts. Once fired, these firearms can be quickly prepared to fire again. Examples include the Spencer rifle and Winchester Model 1894.  

Repeating firearms can be further divided into two categories: manual and autoloading. 

In manual repeaters, the user needs to manually apply force to the action to operate it, either directly to a handle on the bolt or an external hammer, or indirectly through a linkage connected to a lever or slide. In an autoloading repeating firearm, some of the excess energy released from the propellant combustion is used to cycle its action and load subsequent rounds of ammunition into the chamber without the shooter needing to take any additional steps. 

With technological advancements, firearms have come a long way from their single shot ancestors. 

These developments have increased firing rates and enhanced safety and accuracy. From single shot muskets to advanced repeating firearms, the journey of firing mechanisms mirrors the innovation and progress of technology. 

Join us next time, when we step back in time to take a closer look at revolvers and pistols and the impact they made on history.  

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